5 strategies to hire elusive hourly workers

Darrell Jones |
Darrell is Snagajob’s Manager of Content & Copywriting, where he enjoys writing and editing advice that helps workers and businesses align and succeed. His first hourly job was totally chill, bagging ice at an ice cube f-f-f-factory.

For hiring managers today, it may feel like hourly workers are mythical.

Like leprechauns, unicorns, or reasonably-priced tickets to Maui, you hear about them. But as soon as you try to grab one…poof! They’re gone.

Similarly, the pandemic continues to make it challenging to find hourly workers. Especially given the shift in worker values left in the wake of COVID. And, the immediate future doesn’t look particularly rosy, as the labor market continues to add more jobs and lose more workers.

Last month alone 528,000 new jobs were added in the US, according to Department of Labor statistics. At the same time, labor force participation fell from 62.2% to 62.1% (which may not seem huge, until you take into account that there are now 158 million American workers一so that .1% adds up to a big loss).

Easing the impact of worker turnover, scheduling gaps, and other staffing issues

Even when you feel somewhat comfortable with your staffing situation, there always seems to be a wrench thrown in.

Case in point, turnover is at an all-time high. A recent Pew Research study found that one in five of all US workers is “very” or “somewhat likely” to look for a new job in the next six months. So expect workers to be on the move, which means you’ll need replacements.

Ditto for scheduling gaps. With workers taking vacations, seasonal help leaving for school, and peaks for the holidays, there are inevitably going to be shifts that fall through the cracks.

While hiring in some industries may be cooling somewhat lately, overall it’s a super tight market and workers hold the upper hand. To attract, hire, and retain these hard-to-pin-down hourly workers, lean into these five hiring strategies.

1. Optimize your job posts

Throw out the window what once worked for luring job seekers. It’s history. The pandemic forever changed what hourly workers look for in a job, which means you can’t use the same vocabulary to catch their eye.

Use this 2022 Job Posting Checklist to make sure your post checks all the boxes for what matters most to post-pandemic candidates. It helps you attract twice as many qualified applicants, with tips on what to include (and what to leave out), insights on words that are salient today, and how to make a great first impression.

2. Embrace today’s new gig economy

There’s no way to avoid scheduling drama. Inevitable sick days, last-minute PTO, seasonal surges, and other gaps are to be expected. The secret is to resist that kneejerk reaction to add headcount, and to instead welcome fresh opportunities among gig workers.  

A perfect example is fast-trending shift work. 

Unlike traditional part-time work where you might source, train, and utilize a worker for a week, a month, or longer, Shifts by Snagajob is vetted hourly W-2 workers who pick up any shift at a moment’s notice. There are no delays with recruiting and onboarding, and less overall cost.

The service is on the uptick with savvy hiring managers. Shift work is up 38% from this time last year, and fill rates have increased 108% year-over-year. 

It’s no wonder, as shift work aligns with today’s job seekers who want this exact sort of freedom and flexibility. They have other interests and won’t commit to the traditional 40-hour work week. Our 2022 Hourly Hiring Report shows that 54% of hourly workers want part-time work, and 66% rate “flexibility” as one of the top things they look for in a job.

3. Have an “always-on” hiring strategy

While some jobs are perpetually hard to fill, and others may spike in demand now and again, don’t fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on these trouble makers. 

Instead, take a holistic approach to hiring that ensures you always have access to a full roster of available workers. In short, be proactive, not reactive.

As mentioned earlier, turnover is to be expected. Particularly among hourly workers who have more options available to them than ever before. Here at Snagajob we surveyed 3,000+ hourly workers and found that 80% plan to look for a new job in 2022. With so much turnover looming, you’re well advised to have a constant pipeline of talent that doesn’t require a lengthy time to hire. Rethink your entire hiring playbook to account for today’s job market.

4. Take care of your workers

Attracting workers is one thing. Keeping them is another. Both are critical, as turnover is par for the course and can leave you stranded high and dry.

Frontline hourly workers have been through a lot during the pandemic, both at home and in the workplace. Today, building an environment of mutual trust and success is critical. Including for your bottom line. A recent Gallop poll found that the cost of replacing an employee can be as high as twice the person’s annual salary. 

So make sure you’re building a culture to retain talent. This is especially true for younger workers. Our report, The Impact of Today’s Job Market on Hiring, shows that 60% of Generation Z workers (those under 25) rank “sharing social values” among their top three factors for choosing a job. Read: It’s not just about money these days. Also, appeal to emotional needs and be sure to encourage feedback and promote teambuilding.

But, that being said, money does matter. Don’t skimp. To attract candidates you’ll need to pay fair wages and offer worthwhile perks (free lunches, employee discounts, event tickets, or whatever you can dream up).

The more you can do to keep workers happy, the less chance they have of bailing on you for the next shiny new job to come along.

5. Look to expand your talent pool

Traditionally, you’ve probably had a fair level of success exclusively recruiting workers with a certain skill set. That’s not going to cut it today.

The reality is there are 3.4 million fewer American workers now than in February 2020. This scarcity of workers calls for out-of-the-box thinking, focusing less on work experience and more on how someone can grow into a position. 

Truth be told, almost anyone can learn to work a cash register or other machine. Instead, open your hiring pool to people with the soft skills needed for success. Look for candidates with the ability to communicate, organize, show empathy, or other traits specific to your position. As well as the interview, you’ll find these skills in applications in the form of volunteer work, coaching, student activities, and other non-traditional “work” areas.

Also, look in worker segments you might not have considered before. Right now teens and Gen Z workers are anxious to find work, as they’ve been cooped up for 2-plus years during the pandemic. You might want to partner with local schools to tap into their network. Plus be sure to build an employee referral system. And look for mothers who left the market because of childcare issues, and retired people whose nest egg may now be less secure given today's uncertain economy. Both are open to returning to the workforce. 

You’ll also find hidden labor pools, such as second-chance hires who are among the most trusted and productive employees. And don’t forget workers with disabilities, veterans, and other groups of talent who are ready, willing, and able to help. 

And most importantly, think beyond on-staff hires to include gig workers. Plus while rethinking your hiring playbook, take a close look at your application process. See how you can save steps and eliminate barriers. Today’s workers don’t have the patience for overly complex and drawn-out hiring practices.

You won’t find Sasquatch, or the Loch Ness Monster, but you will find hourly workers.

Follow these five strategies and you’ll dramatically increase your success in hiring elusive talent during these evolving times. While this shift in the labor market and worker expectations is challenging, it’s also a great opportunity to beat others to the punch in how all workers will eventually be hired. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.